UPDATE: Southwest’s social media manager talked to PR Daily about the company’s use of social media in a crisis. Read the story here.
Southwest Airlines’ crisis PR team is working overtime.
Today they are responding to media calls and posting on social media outlets about a flight that skidded off the runway at Chicago’s Midway Airport and into a patch of mud. No injuries were reported in the incident, but it worked its way into the top news story on websites and television.
The Chicago Tribune posted a video of the plane sitting at the end of runway, its nose pointing at a White Castle drive-thru restaurant across the street.
Almost immediately following today’s report, Southwest put out a statement confirming that the plane slid off the end of the runway and none of the passengers were injured. The airline pointed out that there were reports of heavy rain in the area at the time the aircraft landed.
Southwest’s statement on the incident was posted on its Facebook page shortly after it occurred, and it drew a whopping 128 “likes” and 170 comments. Most backed up the airlines and lay the blame on Midway and the weather.
Even before the details came out, the airline sent a tweet to its 1.1 million followers saying: “Gathering details regarding the event (at Midway) please standby for more info.”
The latest mishap comes as the dust just began to settle on the April 1 Southwest flight that lost cabin pressure when the fuselage ruptured and had to make an emergency landing. No one was seriously injured in that mishap.
The airline maintains an otherwise squeaky clean—and quirky—reputation. Its annual meeting held at its Dallas headquarters always draws standing room only crowds. They feature crazy antics by employees and massive media coverage.
In a PR event that other airlines can only imagine, Southwest blows out all the stops on Halloween, with employees dressing up. Even the CEO dons a costume, drawing a clean sweep of coverage across all mediums, before and after the event.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor with 20 years of experience. He heads-up the crisis communication/issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog at or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.